Apple's heart study goes live with Stanford, American Well

Apple has officially launched its heart study app, which leverages the Apple Watch's heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms known as atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is the No. 1 cause of stroke, responsible for nearly 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year, and it often goes undiagnosed because many people do not experience atrial fibrillation symptoms.

"Every week we receive incredible customer letters about how Apple Watch has affected their lives, including learning that they have [atrial fibrillation]. These stories inspire us and we're determined to do more to help people understand their health," said Jeff Williams, Apple's COO.

Apple has teamed up with Stanford (Calif.) University School of Medicine to perform the research. As part of the study, participants will receive a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone if an irregular heart rhythm is identified. They will also receive free consultation with a study physician — which may be facilitated virtually with partner American Well — and an electrocardiogram patch for additional monitoring. Thanks to American Well's telehealth services, anyone can participate in the study, regardless of their location, potentially ushering in a new era of virtually-enabled clinical trials.

The watch uses green LED lights that flash hundreds of times per second and light-sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood that flows in the wrist. The sensor's optics records signals from four points on the wrist and computes heart rate via an algorithm that isolates heart rhythms from other noises. The app then leverages this technology to identify irregularities in watch wearers' heart rhythms.

"Working alongside the medical community, not only can we inform people of certain health conditions, we also hope to advance discoveries in heart science," Mr. Williams added.

Stanford sees the collaboration with Apple as an opportunity to advance the field of personalized healthcare.

"Through the Apple Heart Study, Stanford Medicine faculty will explore how technology like Apple Watch's heart rate sensor can help usher in a new era of proactive health care central to our precision health approach," said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of Stanford's School of Medicine. "We're excited to work with Apple on this breakthrough heart study."

The Apple Heart Study app is available for download in the U.S. app store to customers 22 years or older with an Apple Watch Series one or later.

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